There are many environmental issues in India. Air pollution, water pollution, garbage and pollution of the natural environment are all challenges for India. Nature is also causing some drastic effects on India. The situation was worse between 1947 through 1995. According to data collection and environment assessment studies of World Bank experts, between 1995 through 2010, India has made one of the fastest progress in the world, in addressing its environmental issues and improving its environmental quality. Still, India has a long way to go to reach environmental quality similar to those enjoyed in developed economies. Pollution remains a major challenge and opportunity for India.
Environmental issues are one of the primary causes of disease, health issues and long term livelihood impact for India.
Law and policies
Main article: Environmental policy of India
British rule of India saw several laws related to environment. Amongst the earliest ones were Shore Nuisance (Bombay and Kolaba) Act of 1853 and the Oriental Gas Company Act of 1857. The Indian Penal Code of 1860, imposed a fine on anyone who voluntarily fouls the water of any public spring or reservoir. In addition, the Code penalised negligent acts. British India also enacted laws aimed at controlling air pollution. Prominent amongst these were the Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act of 1905 and the Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act of 1912. Whilst these laws failed in having the intended effect, British-enacted legislations pioneered the growth of environmental regulations in India.
Upon independence from Britain, India adopted a constitution and numerous British-enacted laws, without any specific constitutional provision on protecting the environment. India amended its constitution in 1976. Article 48(A) of Part IV of the amended constitution, read: The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. Article 51 A(g) imposed additional environmental mandates on the Indian state.
Other Indian laws from recent history include the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981. The Air Act was inspired by the decisions made at Stockholm Conference. The Bhopal gas tragedy triggered the Government of India to enact the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986. India has also enacted a set of Noise Pollution (Regulation & Control) Rules in 2000.
In 1985, Indian government created the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This ministry is the central administrative organisation in India for regulating and ensuring environmental protection.
Despite active passage of laws by the central government of India, the reality of environmental quality mostly worsened between 1947 and 1990. Rural poor had no choice, but to sustain life in whatever way possible. Air emissions increased, water pollution worsened, forest cover decreased.
Starting in the 1990s, reforms were introduced. Since then, for the first time in Indian history, major air pollutant concentrations have dropped in every 5-year period. Between 1992 and 2010, satellite data confirms India's forest coverage has increased for the first time by over 4 million hectares, a 7% increase.
Some have cited economic development as the cause regarding the environmental issues. It is suggested that India's growing population is the primary cause of India's environmental degradation. Systematic studies challenge this theory. Empirical evidence from countries such as Japan, England and Singapore, each with population density similar to or higher than that of India, yet each enjoying environmental quality vastly superior to India's, suggests population density may not be the only factor affecting India's issues.
Major environmental issues are forest and agricultural degradation of land, resource depletion (such as water, mineral, forest, sand, and rocks), environmental degradation, public health, loss of biodiversity, loss of resilience in ecosystems, livelihood security for the poor.
The major sources of pollution in India include the rapid burning of fuelwood and biomass such as dried waste from livestock as the primary source of energy, lack of organised garbage and waste removal services, lack of sewage treatment operations, lack of flood control and monsoon water drainage system, diversion of consumer waste into rivers, cremation practices near major rivers, government mandated protection of highly polluting old public transport, and continued operation by Indian government of government owned, high emission plants built between 1950 and 1980.
Air pollution, poor management of waste, growing water scarcity, falling groundwater tables, water pollution, preservation and quality of forests, biodiversity loss, and land/soil degradation are some of the major environmental issues India faces today.
India's population growth adds pressure to environmental issues and its resources. Rapid urbanization has caused a buildup of heavy metals in the soil of the city of Ghaziabad, and these metals are being ingested through contaminated vegetables. Heavy metals are hazardous to people's health and are known carcinogens.
Population growth and environmental quality
There is a long history of study and debate about the interactions between population growth and the environment. According to a British thinker Malthus, for example, a growing population exerts pressure on agricultural land, causing environmental degradation, and forcing the cultivation of land of poorer as well as poorer quality. This environmental degradation ultimately reduces agricultural yields and food availability, famines and diseases and death, thereby reducing the rate of population growth.
Population growth, because it can place increased pressure on the assimilative capacity of the environment, is also seen as a major cause of air, water, and solid-waste pollution. The reslt, Malthus theorised, is an equilibrium population that enjoys low levels of both income and Environmental quality. Malthus suggested positive and preventative forced control of human population, along with abolition of poor laws.
Malthus theory, published between 1798 and 1826, has been analysed and criticised ever since. The American thinker Henry George, for example, observed with his characteristic piquancy in dismissing Malthus: "Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens." Similarly, the American economist Julian Lincoln Simon criticised Malthus's theory. He noted that the facts of human history have proven the predictions of Malthus and of the Neo-Malthusians to be flawed. Massive geometric population growth in the 20th century did not result in a Malthusian catastrophe. The possible reasons include: increase in human knowledge, rapid increases in productivity, innovation and application of knowledge, general improvements in farming methods (industrial agriculture), mechanisation of work (tractors), the introduction of high-yield varieties of wheat and other plants (Green Revolution), the use of pesticides to control crop pests.
More recent scholarly articles concede that whilst there is no question that population growth may contribute to environmental degradation, its effects can be modified by economic growth and modern technology. Research in environmental economics has uncovered a relationship between environmental quality, measured by ambient concentrations of air pollutants and per capita income. This so-called environmental Kuznets curve shows environmental quality worsening up until about $5,000 of per capita income on purchasing parity basis, and improving thereafter. The key requirement, for this to be true, is continued adoption of technology and scientific management of resources, continued increases in productivity in every economic sector, entrepreneurial innovation and economic expansion.
Other data suggest that population density has little correlation to environmental quality and human quality of life. India's population density, in 2011, was about 368 human beings per square kilometre. Many countries with population density similar or higher than India enjoy environmental quality as well as human quality of life far superior than India. For example: Singapore (7148 /km2), Hong Kong (6349 /km2), South Korea (487 /km2), Netherlands (403 /km2), Belgium (355 / km2), England (395 /km2) and Japan (337/ km2).
Main article: Water pollution in India
India has major water pollution issues. Discharge of untreated sewage is the single most important cause for pollution of surface and ground water in India. There is a large gap between generation and treatment of domestic waste water in India. The problem is not only that India lacks sufficient treatment capacity but also that the sewage treatment plants that exist do not operate and are not maintained. The majority of the government-owned sewage treatment plants remain closed most of the time due to improper design or poor maintenance or lack of reliable electricity supply to operate the plants, together with absentee employees and poor management. The waste water generated in these areas normally percolates in the soil or evaporates. The uncollected wastes accumulate in the urban areas cause unhygienic conditions and release pollutants that leaches to surface and groundwater.
According to a World Health Organization study, out of India's 3,119 towns and cities, just 209 have partial sewage treatment facilities, and only 8 have full wastewater treatment facilities. Over 100 Indian cities dump untreated sewage directly into the Ganges River. Investment is needed to bridge the gap between 29000 million litre per day of sewage India generates, and a treatment capacity of mere 6000 million litre per day.
Other sources of water pollution include agriculture run off and small scale factories along the rivers and lakes of India. Fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture in northwest have been found in rivers, lakes and ground water. Flooding during monsoons worsens India's water pollution problem, as it washes and moves all sorts of solid garbage and contaminated soils into its rivers and wetlands.
According to NASA groundwater declines are highest on Earth between 2002 and 2008 in northern India. Agricultural productivity is dependent on irrigation. A collapse of agricultural output and severe shortages of potable water may influence 114 million residents in India. In July 2012, about 670 million people or 10% of the world’s population lost power blame on the severe drought restricting the power delivered by hydroelectric dams.
Main article: Air pollution in India
Air pollution in India is a serious issue with the major sources being fuelwood and biomass burning, fuel adulteration, vehicle emission and traffic congestion. Air pollution is also the main cause of the Asian brown cloud, which is causing the monsoon to be delayed. India is the world's largest consumer of fuelwood, agricultural waste and biomass for energy purposes. Traditional fuel (fuelwood, crop residue and dung cake) dominates domestic energy use in rural India and accounts for about 90% of the total. In urban areas, this traditional fuel constitutes about 24% of the total. Fuel wood, agri waste and biomass cake burning releases over 165 million tonnes of combustion products into India's indoor and outdoor air every year. These biomass-based household stoves in India are also a leading source of greenhouse emissions contributing to climate change.
The annual crop burning practice in northwest India, north India and eastern Pakistan, after monsoons, from October to December, are a major seasonal source of air pollution. Approximately 500 million tons of crop residue is burnt in open, releasing smoke, soot, NOx, SOx, PAHs and particulate matter into the air. This burning has been found to be a leading cause of smog and haze problems through the winter over Punjab, cities such as Delhi, and major population centers along the rivers through West Bengal. In other states of India, rice straw and other crop residue burning in open is a major source of air pollution.
Vehicle emissions are another source of air pollution. Vehicle emissions are worsened by fuel adulteration and poor fuel combustion efficiencies from traffic congestion and low density of quality, high speed road network per 1000 people.
On per capita basis, India is a small emitter of carbon dioxide greenhouse. In 2009, IEA estimates that it emitted about 1.4 tons of gas per person, in comparison to the United States’ 17 tons per person, and a world average of 5.3 tons per person. However, India was the third largest emitter of total carbon dioxide in 2009 at 1.65 Gt per year, after China (6.9 Gt per year) and the United States (5.2 Gt per year). With 17 percent of world population, India contributed some 5 percent of human-sourced carbon dioxide emission; compared to China's 24 percent share.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1981 to regulate air pollution and there have been some measurable improvements. However, the 2012 Environmental Performance Index ranked India as having the poorest relative air quality out of 132 countries.
Solid waste pollution
See also: Solid waste policy in India
Trash and garbage is a common sight in urban and rural areas of India. It is a major source of pollution. Indian cities alone generate more than 100 million tons of solid waste a year. Street corners are piled with trash. Public places and sidewalks are despoiled with filth and litter, rivers and canals act as garbage dumps. In part, India's garbage crisis is from rising constion. India's waste problem also points to a stunning failure of governance. The tourism regions in the country mainly hill stations are also facing this issue in the recent years.
In 2000, India's Supreme Court directed all Indian cities to implement a comprehensive waste-management programme that would include household collection of segregated waste, recycling and composting. These directions have simply been ignored. No major city runs a comprehensive programme of the kind envisioned by the Supreme Court.
Indeed, forget waste segregation and recycling directive of the India's Supreme Court, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that up to 40 percent of municipal waste in India remains simply uncollected. Even medical waste, theoretically controlled by stringent rules that require hospitals to operate incinerators, is routinely dumped with regular municipal garbage. A recent study found that about half of India's medical waste is improperly disposed of.
Municipalities in Indian cities and towns have waste collection employees. However, these are unionised government workers and their work performance is neither measured nor monitored.
Some of the few solid waste landfills India has, near its major cities, are overflowing and poorly managed. They have become significant sources of greenhouse emissions and breeding sites for disease vectors such as flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats, and other pests.
In 2011, several Indian cities embarked on waste-to-energy projects of the type in use in Germany, Switzerland and Japan. For example, New Delhi is implementing two incinerator projects aimed at turning the city’s trash problem into electricity resource. These plants are being welcomed for addressing the city’s chronic problems of excess untreated waste and a shortage of electric power. They are also being welcomed by those who seek to prevent water pollution, hygiene problems, and eliminate rotting trash that produces potent greenhouse gas methane. The projects are being opposed by waste collection workers and local unions who fear changing technology may deprive them of their livelihood and way of life.
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Noise pollution or noise disturbance is the disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life. Noise-wise India can be termed as the most polluted country in the world. The source of most outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines and transportation systems, motor vehicles, aircraft, and trains. In India the outdoor noise is also caused by loud music during festival seasons.Outdoor noise is summarized by the word environmental noise. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential areas.
Indoor noise can be caused by machines, building activities, and music performances, especially in some workplaces. Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by outside (e.g. trains) or inside (e.g. music) noise.
High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss.
The Supreme Court of India which is in New Delhi gave a significant verdict on noise pollution in 2005. Unnecessary honking of vehicles makes for a high decibel level of noise in cities. The use of loudspeakers for political purposes and for sermons by temples and mosques makes noise pollution in residential areas worse.
In January 2010, Government of India published norms of permissible noise levels in urban and rural areas.
Land or Soil pollution
In March 2009, the issue of Uranium poisoning in Punjab attracted press coverage. It was alleged to be caused by fly ash ponds of thermal power stations, which reportedly lead to severe birth defects in children in the Faridkot and Bhatinda districts of Punjab. The news reports claimed the uranium levels were more than 60 times the maximum safe limit. In 2012, the Government of India confirmed that the ground water in Malwa belt of Punjab has uranium metal that is 50% above the trace limits set by the United Nations' World Health Organization. Scientific studies, based on over 1000 samples from various sampling points, could not trace the source to fly ash and any sources from thermal power plants or industry as originally alleged. The study also revealed that the uranium concentration in ground water of Malwa district is not 60 times the WHO limits, but only 50% above the WHO limit in 3 locations. This highest concentration found in samples was less than those found naturally in ground waters currently used for human purposes elsewhere, such as Finland. Research is underway to identify natural or other sources for the uranium.
Greenhouse gas emissions
India was the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, in 2009 at 1.65 Gt per year, after China and the United States . With 17 percent of world population, India contributed some 5 percent of human-sourced carbon dioxide emission; compared to China's 24 percent share. On per capita basis, India emitted about 1.4 tons of carbon dioxide per person, in comparison to the United States’ 17 tons per person, and a world average of 5.3 tons per person.
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This article is about material waste. For the medical condition, see Wasting. For other uses, see Waste (disambiguation).
"Refuse" redirects here. For other meanings of this word, see Refusal.
Waste (or wastes) are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or it is worthless, defective and of no use.
Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such as sewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others.
United Nations Environment Program
According to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal of 1989, Art. 2(1), "'Wastes' are substance or objects, which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law".
United Nations Statistics Division
The UNSD Glossary of Environment Statistics describes waste as "materials that are not prime products (that is, products produced for the market) for which the generator has no further use in terms of his/her own purposes of production, transformation or consumption, and of which he/she wants to dispose. Wastes may be generated during the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediate and final products, the consumption of final products, and other human activities. Residuals recycled or reused at the place of generation are excluded."
Under the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, Art. 3(1), the European Union defines waste as "an object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard." For a more structural description of the Waste Directive, see the European Commission's summary.
Main article: List of waste types
There are many waste types defined by modern systems of waste management, notably including:
There are many issues that surround reporting waste. It is most commonly measured by size or weight, and there is a stark difference between the two. For example, organic waste is much heavier when it is wet, and plastic or glass bottles can have different weights but be the same size. On a global scale it is difficult to report waste because countries have different definitions of waste and what falls into waste categories, as well as different ways of reporting. Based on incomplete reports from its parties, the Basel Convention estimated 338 million tonnes of waste was generated in 2001. For the same year, OECD estimated 4 billion tonnes from its member countries. Despite these inconsistencies, waste reporting is still useful on a small and large scale to determine key causes and locations, and to find ways of preventing, minimizing, recovering, treating, and disposing waste.
Inappropriately managed waste can attract rodents and insects, which can harbour gastrointestinal parasites, yellow fever, worms, the plague and other conditions for humans, and exposure to hazardous wastes, particularly when they are burned, can cause various other diseases including cancers. Toxic waste materials can contaminate surface water, groundwater, soil, and air which causes more problems for humans, other species, and ecosystems. Waste treatment and disposal produces significant green house gas (GHG) emissions, notably methane, which are contributing significantly to global warming.
Waste management is a significant environmental justice issue. Many of the environmental burdens cited above are more often borne by marginalized groups, such as racial minorities, women, and residents of developing nations. NIMBY (not in my back yard) is the opposition of residents to a proposal for a new development because it is close to them. However, the need for expansion and siting of waste treatment and disposal facilities is increasing worldwide. There is now a growing market in the transboundary movement of waste, and although most waste that flows between countries goes between developed nations, a significant amount of waste is moved from developed to developing nations.
The economic costs of managing waste are high, and are often paid for by municipal governments; money can often be saved with more efficiently designed collection routes, modifying vehicles, and with public education. Environmental policies such as pay as you throw can reduce the cost of management and reduce waste quantities. Waste recovery (that is, recycling, reuse) can curb economic costs because it avoids extracting raw materials and often cuts transportation costs. "Economic assessment of municipal waste management systems – case studies using a combination of life-cycle assessment (LCA) and life-cycle costing (LCC)". The location of waste treatment and disposal facilities often reduces property values due to noise, dust, pollution, unsightliness, and negative stigma. The informal waste sector consists mostly of waste pickers who scavenge for metals, glass, plastic, textiles, and other materials and then trade them for a profit. This sector can significantly alter or reduce waste in a particular system, but other negative economic effects come with the disease, poverty, exploitation, and abuse of its workers.
Main article: Resource recovery
Resource recovery is the retrieval of recyclable waste, which was intended for disposal, for a specific next use. It is the processing of recyclables to extract or recover materials and resources, or convert to energy. This process is carried out at a resource recovery facility. Resource recovery is not only important to the environment, but it can be cost effective by decreasing the amount of waste sent to the disposal stream, reduce the amount of space needed for landfills, and protect limited natural resources.
Energy recovery from waste is using non-recyclable waste materials and extracting from it heat, electricity, or energy through a variety of processes, including combustion, gasification, pyrolyzation, and anaerobic digestion. This process is referred to as waste-to-energy.
There are several ways to recover energy from waste. Anaerobic digestion is a naturally occurring process of decomposition where organic matter is reduced to a simpler chemical component in the absence of oxygen.Incineration or direct controlled burning of municipal solid waste to reduce waste and make energy. Secondary recovered fuel is the energy recovery from waste that cannot be reused or recycled from mechanical and biological treatment activities. Pyrolysis involves heating of waste, with the absence of oxygen, to high temperatures to break down any carbon content into a mixture of gaseous and liquid fuels and solid residue. Gasification is the conversion of carbon rich material through high temperature with partial oxidation into a gas stream.Plasma arc heating is the very high heating of municipal solid waste to temperatures ranging from 3,000-10,000 °C, where energy is released by an electrical discharge in an inert atmosphere.
Using waste as fuel can offer important environmental benefits. It can provide a safe and cost-effective option for wastes that would normally have to be dealt with through disposal. It can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by diverting energy use from fossil fuels, while also generating energy and using waste as fuel can reduce the methane emissions generated in landfills by averting waste from landfills.
There is some debate in the classification of certain biomass feedstock as wastes. Crude Tall Oil (CTO), a co-product of the pulp and papermaking process, is defined as a waste or residue in some European countries when in fact it is produced “on purpose” and has significant value add potential in industrial applications. Several companies use CTO to produce fuel, while the pine chemicals industry maximizes it as a feedstock “producing low-carbon, bio-based chemicals” through cascading use.
Education and awareness
Education and awareness in the area of waste and waste management is increasingly important from a global perspective of resource management. The Talloires Declaration is a declaration for sustainability concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of environmental pollution and degradation, and the depletion of natural resources. Local, regional, and global air pollution; accumulation and distribution of toxic wastes; destruction and depletion of forests, soil, and water; depletion of the ozone layer and emission of "green house" gases threaten the survival of humans and thousands of other living species, the integrity of the earth and its biodiversity, the security of nations, and the heritage of future generations. Several universities have implemented the Talloires Declaration by establishing environmental management and waste management programs, e.g. the waste management university project. University and vocational education are promoted by various organizations, e.g. WAMITAB and Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.
Vegetable waste being dumped in a market in Hyderabad
Agobox; Bio-medical Waste
Waste collected in a tricycle
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- ^Wilson, D.C.; Velis, C.; Cheeseman, C. "Role of informal sector recycling in waste management in developing countries." Habitat International 30 (2006): 797-808.
- ^USEPA (2012). "Frequent Questions".
- ^Government of Montana (2012). "Resource Recovery".
- ^Grand Traverse County (2006). "What is Resource Recovery?".
- ^ abcdefghIGD (2007). "Energy Recovery and Disposal".
- ^"Biofuels: Wasted Energy". Oliver, Christian, Financial Times. April 15, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
- ^"Crude tall oil feed stocks cannot be considered 'waste'". Moran, Kevin, Financial Times. April 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
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